Today, nine Mid Sussex Ramblers set off from the 14th century Manor House of Ightham Mote on a seven miles stroll though varied landscapes and habitats.
Kent is very different from Sussex with its oast houses and orchards. The walk along the Greensands way from Ightham Mote to Knowle Park is too spectacular to depict within the limitations of this blog. You need to walk it for yourselves. Dare I say, it rivals anything that the South Downs offer -- except the sea!
We went along the Chestnut walk in Knowle.
The walk promised Fallow deer and apple blossom. First goal accomplished with this buck, which looks as though it has recently shed its antlers.
and more deer.
Then the second objective was achieved.... apple blossom. Job done!
This being Kent, we passed a hazel nut field with an orchard behind.
At the end of the walk there was time to visit the lovely Manor House.
Pigeons damage and devour my Spis bladene Kale plant below.
The pigeons perch on the leaves and flower stems, breaking them as they devour the plant.
I let this grand Kale from Denmark go to seed and treat it a a cottage garden plant -- the seeds moving it around the garden from year to year. But pigeons do a lot of damage.
I have a friend. Stare hard at the above picture (or expand it) and right in the center you will see the fox that seems to live underneath a yew hedge in my garden. Every evening at 19.50hr the fox trots through his/her (my) front garden and into the road and his/her adjacent gardens. I do see lots of pigeon feathers from time to time; especially this morning.
Well done foxy! What a fine breakfast for you. And one pigeon, which will no longer eat my kale.
I had no time to move the carcase this morning.
By evening, I presume that the crows had nearly finished what the fox had left. I hope that the crows are full and stop fishing in my pond for newts or tadpoles, if any are left from the newts' predation.
So three cheers for foxes... for organically controlling the pigeon pests.
And three cheers for crows.... for tidying up after the fox failed to eat up all of its breakfast.
The following morning everything was gone except the feathers. Well done badgers, foxes or crows, whoever enjoyed picking over the carcass.
David Lang, in his fine book "Wild Orchids of Sussex" page 107 states about the Early-purple Orchid that "There is a most unusual colour form where the flowers are pale but flecked with purple, and the leaves are unspotted. It is very unusual to find 'broken' colour in orchids. This form has been found in Broadchalke in Wiltshire (1989) and north of Charing in Kent (1991). It should be looked for in Sussex."
Well, Mid Sussex Ramblers have been looking! And thanks to Tony Osmand yesterday, he found the following little beauty. Without a tripod the pictures are not as sharp as one would like, but isn't it a rare delight?
I always saw Pond skaters as clever little chaps that could walk on the surface tension of water and run really fast.
According to the RSPB site they eat small insects.
However, my observations are that they are ruthless in attacking bigger insect than themselves.
The insect above was struggling to escape the water's grip. It might have made it if a pond skater hadn't moved in for the kill.
By this time the prey was about to stop struggling. Meanwhile.... in the other pond....
One unhappy insect had been attacked by a hoard of predatory pond skaters.
The colouring of Smooth Newts seems to be varied from different sources. Click on the above picture to expand it to see a male and female feeding on a lump of bread.
The female above looks to have eaten too much bread or is pregnant.
In any case there are many reports that if a pond has fish or newts then tadpoles get eaten. So, with tadpoles from Surrey, I have set up a tadpoles Intensive Care Unit, (ICU).
I have subsequently topped it up with gallons of rain water and removed all the snails. The tadpoles are thriving after two days in ICU. I'll monitor them daily and add them to the ponds when big enough to stand a chance against newts. A crow was "fishing" in the pond yesterday. Perhaps it got some newts.
For more info' on newts see http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/479.shtml
I've just seen my first Damselfly of the year.
I don't think it is Sympecma fusca, which is the only European genus to hibernate as adults as in subsequent years I have seen none others. They hide amongst dead leaves or dense shrubs but often take to the wing on sunny days, even in the middle of winter. Source; Insects of Britain and Western Europe by Michael Chinery .
There are lots of Large red damselflies in my ponds, which this probably is as a rather early teneral.
A wild flower meadow has been developing in my garden over the years, due to benign neglect and a little help.
Underneath the fruit trees and elsewhere, Cowslips, Primula veris, have thrived. Primula veris, what a promiscuous little Cow! Just look at its gaudy progeny above.
The windswept specimen above -- a short bee-flight away -- is the possible father of the bastard Cowslip.
Elsewhere in the garden, a former owner who planted blousey Spanish bluebells might be dismayed that I am mowing and hoeing all of the Spanish bluebells that I find. We don't want them getting into our native bluebell woods.